More than 200 pilot whales euthanised after stranding on Chatham Islands

1:17 pm on 9 October 2022
An aerial drone photo of the whales stranded on the Chatham Islands.

It is difficult to stage whale rescues in Chatham Islands due to the waters shark population and the low number of people there (file picture). Photo: Sam Wild

More than 250 whales that stranded on the Chatham Islands have died or had to be euthanised.

The Department of Conservation said it responded to a report that about 250 whales had beached in the northwest of Rēkohu on Friday.

When strandings occur on the Chatham Islands whales are not actively refloated due to the risk of shark attacks to people as well as to the whales themselves.

The surviving whales were euthanised with the support of imi and iwi and their bodies were being left to decompose naturally on site.

Whale strandings are not uncommon on the Chatham Islands.

The largest recorded pilot whale stranding on Rēkohu occurred in 1918, when an estimated 1000 whales died.

Whale rescue organisation Project Jonah said in a Facebook post that it was heartbroken to hear of the mass stranding.

The Chatham Islands is a challenging spot for stranding responses. The area is known for great white sharks, remote beaches, and has resident population of less than 800 people.

Project Jonah said mass strandings were distressing events, and while it always aimed to refloat surviving whales, that was not always possible.

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